Today in Culprit 1991-92 we’ll take a jump back in time and look at one of the most recognized worm companies from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Back in 1977, Rodney Dann developed the Original Culprit Worm, the first ribbon-tail worm in the industry. But the worm design wasn’t all that was new. Dann did the unthinkable. He shot two colors of plastic into an injection mold and became the first person to come up with a bait that had two distinct colors, top and bottom, as close to a hand-poured worm as you could get. His company, Classic Manufacturing Company, INC. became an instant success in the Florida region of the country.
But Dann didn’t stop there. The colors he developed have become standards in the industry. Colors such as Red Shad, Blue Shad, and Moccasin utilized powder pigment found only in the western hand-poured worms of the day. The baits had an iridescence to them that not only caught anglers but most importantly, fish.
I didn’t become familiar with the Original Culprit Worm until around the 1986 era while fishing in Michigan. At first, I wasn’t too impressed having a stock of my western baits with me. I soon found out what works in the crystal-clear waters out west doesn’t necessarily work in the dingy waters of the upper Midwest. Within a week, I had bags of the 6-inch Original Culprit Worm in my worm duffle.
Let’s get on with the catalog before I get lost in memories.
The cover of the catalog is a great photo of nostalgic fishing gear. A pre-1940s Kentucky reel sits on a split bamboo rod, a 1948 Sports Afield is held down by a pipe, and the desk is littered with old wooden plugs and other early fishing ephemera. Smack in the middle of the scene is a brand new plastic bag of Culprit Worms and a sticky note saying, “Bobby, Try these. They are the best lures I’ve ever used! Grandpa.” Such a great juxtaposition of times.
What a great cover.
Opening the catalog, the reader is greeted with The Jerk Worm. Offered in two sizes, 4 1/2-inch and 6-inch, the Jerk Worm was Culprit’s answer to the Sluggo craze that was taking place at the time. Every plastics company worth their PVC was trying to keep up with Herb Reed’s Sluggo.
But as the soft-plastic jerkbait craze went on, each company designed their own little nuances into their versions. In this case, Culprit designed a special hook slot or pocket into the bait to help with the hookset. They also crafted a tail into the bait.
Pages 4 and 5 feature two different crawdad trailers, the Can-Do Craw and the Softy Craw. The Can-Do craw was a big bait at 6 inches long. From the description in the catalog, it was meant to be fished alone, Texas rigged. I looks as if it would be a good jig trailer if cut back at the start of the tail.
The next bait is more to my liking, the Softy Craw. At 3-inches in length, this bait looks to be a perfect size for a jig. It also looks like a number of the creature baits being made today. There is no mention of the bait being made with softer plastic, which I would assume from the name, only that its slimmer profile aided in hooksets.
Turning to pages 6 and 7 the reader comes across two baits that seem a bit gimmicky. Not the styles, a crawdad and the Original Culprit, but what these baits are adorned with. Called the Sticky Craw and Sticky Worm, these baits were fashioned with the looped nylon section of Velcro. In the description, Culprit said that the bait entices the fish and then entangles with their teeth for extra hook-ups.
Seeing this brought back memories of a product unveiled around 1977 called the Grip Lip. Grip Lip sold little strips of the nylon looped Velcro that you could slide onto your worm, apply to the back of a crankbait, or even make a spinnerbait skirt out of. It sold for maybe three or four years before it was relegated to the discount bins of America’s fine tackle establishments.
It really puzzles me why Culprit would take this gimmick and apply it to its own baits – being the the concept had failed some years earlier.
The next bait of interest to me is the Wienee Worm, found on page 9. This bait is without a doubt in reaction to the western hand-poured worms that were starting to make their way east at the time. The only thing was, the Weenie Worm, as known in the west, was a color, not a particular size or style of worm.
Green Weenie was a color that was developed by John “Zank” Viazanko in the mid- to late-80s. It was a double-pour worm with watermelon green on one side and the other side was chocolate brown. The most successful style of worm it was poured in was a 4 1/2-inch or 6-inch straight worm, like a Creme Scoundrel. The color was, without a doubt, the number-one selling color in the west for a number of years and became know as the Weenie Worm.
Culprit’s Wienee Worm took advantage of the hype being spread by the western anglers and writers, but they didn’t get the memo that the color was what defined it. Instead, they came out with their own version of a 4-inch finesse worm, and they had success with it.
Pages 10 and 11 feature what put Culprit on the map – The Original Culprit Worm. Offered in four different sizes and 66 colors, there was a Culprit Worm for every situation and more. Sizes offered were 4-ich, 6-inch, 7 1/2-inch, and 10-inch. They had solid colors, shad colors, flecks, firetails, core shots and high floaters. Being their number-one selling worm style left them a lot of options.
The remaining catalog pages are filled with lizards, jigs, a Sassy Shad type bait, Culprit’s Quicker Sticker worm hook, scent, and a couple of other odds and ends.
Rodney Dann, passed in 1983 at the age of 36 while fishing a bass tournament when his boat flipped in a storm. Culprit is still in business more than 45 years later, still in Clermont, Florida. That’s some staying power. And after all these years they still offer the Original Culprit Worm, although the rest of their line has changed.
I hope you enjoyed this look back at one of the cutting-edge soft plastics companies of the 80s and 90s.
To see the entire catalog, please look at the gallery below. Click on the first image and use the arrows to scroll through the catalog.